Wednesday, April 6, 2016

When I'm Big

When I was in second grade, my oldest brother was in sixth. I forget why, but one day he'd forgotten his lunch, and I had it. When I went to give it to my teacher, she asked me if I knew where his classroom was, and when I nodded yes, told me to go ahead and bring it to him.

The elementary school we were at that year was long and low, with just two main corridors. My room was near the end of one, his all the way at the far end of the other. I wasn't scared to go down the big kids hallway. It was a rare treat to walk alone down the long passage, the sounds of learning coming out of each room I passed.

When I got to his room, I timidly knocked on the door. The teacher came and took his lunch from me; as the door opened I got a good look at all those big desks and the HUGE kids that occupied them. I knew, somewhere in my mind, that one day I'd be as big as those kids, but I knew it would take me a LONG TIME to get there.

They were so grown-up and smart and tall. Could it really be that I'd grow and one day be one of them?  Surely, when that day arrived, I'd know all I needed to know to be big!

When I got there, four years and two more schools later, I didn't feel so big. I was a misfit in the Catholic school I'd landed in for fifth and sixth grades; instead of growing, my days were spent trying to hide. To not call any attention to myself. To shrink away to invisibility.

Still, somewhere inside was the vision formed of myself on that long-ago walk down a hallway. It took many years for it to resurface, but when I left home for college, it came to the fore. I still didn't have the perceived self-confidence and grace of those grown-up sixth graders, but I could fake it. I was going to a school where I didn't know a soul. They didn't know I was an unacceptable outcast, and I sure as heck wasn't going to tell them. I faked it until, magically, the outside began to resemble the interior image.

Sometimes, oftentimes, growth can be painful. This time was an exception - the part of me I'd hidden away during my bullied years peeked cautiously around the corner of the hallway, and then walked, curious and eager to grow, down the middle of the hall to where the big kids studied and learned and grew.

One day I woke up and was grown-up and smart and tall. I'd made it - I'd learned all I needed to know to be big!

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